cover image Women on the Edge

Women on the Edge

. Dutton Books, $20 (272pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-337-6

Despite its tantalizing title, this anthology of 14 short suspense stories by such genre stalwarts as Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller offers few insights into the motivations of women in times of crisis. The collection lacks cohesiveness and seems completely out of touch with contemporary mores. John D. MacDonald's ``Betrayed''--in which two spies promise to arrange the release of a Korean POW in return for top-secret information from the lab where his wife works--can perhaps be excused for its antiquated slang and concerns, as it was written in 1952. But ``I'm in the Book'' by Loren D. Estleman and ``Marble Mildred'' by Max Allan Collins, both from the late 1980s, appear equally dated as they unflatteringly portray homosexuality and imply that suicide and murder are legitimate responses to behavior different from the societal norms. A thinly developed V. I. Warshawski makes an appearance in Sara Paretsky's ``The Case of the Pietro Andromache'' and perfunctorily solves a case of murder and a missing statue. ``The Runaway,'' a solid ghost tale by Barbara Michaels, perhaps best illustrates what editor Greenberg was striving for with its depiction of an eerie meeting between two runaway girls and a strange boy whose past in some ways mirrors their own. Most of the stories, however, fail to deliver the danger, intimacy and verve that Nancy Pickard's introduction promises. ( Oct. )